DOJ snags San Diego man for USC breach

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced yesterday that it charged a San Diego man for hacking into the University of Southern California's student application system and accessing personal records.

Federal prosecutors are accusing Eric McCarty of orchestrating an attack in June 2005 that shut down the site for nearly two weeks. The 25-year-old network administrator faces up to ten years in jail for the alleged crime.

The FBI was tipped off about the crime when it was contacted last year by a reporter who received an anonymous e-mail about the breach. Law enforcement tracked McCarty down through his IP address, and later found evidence on his computer showing he brought attention to his deed by e-mailing SecurityFocus staff through an anonymous e-mail account: [email protected].

The DOJ said in a statement yesterday that McCarty exploited a vulnerability in the admissions structured query language (SQL) database to bypass authentication. He staged a SQL injection with the same Gmail account, and accessed and copied several applicant records.

Though he only accessed a small number of records, the breach compromised more than 270,000 records housed in the database.

McCarty's first appearance before the Los Angeles District Court is scheduled for April 28.

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